Holocaust Denial & Charlie Hebdo

holocaust denial

I’m glad we don’t have them in the United States, only to add that laws against Holocaust-denial are being used as a nasty wedge in current debates re: the depiction of the Prophet at Charlie Hebdo. The argument is why should it be illegal in many European countries (and a taboo in most western ones) to deny the Holocaust, but it’s okay to insult Muslims or denigrate (allegedly) Islam by posting (satirical) pictures of Mohammed. The logic follows the form of “if not one thing then why this other?”. The malicious conclusion is that there is a double standard at work that is meant to privilege Jews against Muslims.

As I see it, the argument is a false equivalence based on false comparisons. In countries like German and Austria and also France, laws prohibiting Holocaust denial were designed as political tools with which to suppress neo-Nazi and other forms of hate speech and incitement to genocide (including hate speech directed at Muslim, if not Islam, its principles and practice per se). The theory is that Holocaust denial is a political discourse that attracts neo-Nazis and other anti-Semites who harbor murderous intentions vis-a-vis Jewish people. (The jury is out re: anti-anti Holocaust denial).

Whether these laws are justified or justifiable in this or that country, it’s hard to see how the concern about Holocaust denial and the commitment to police its expression compares to pictures of the Prophet, including satiric ones like the ones published at Charlie Hebdo. These latter were directed, for the most part, at his most violent followers, namely the ones who don’t hesitate to incite against and even murder cartoonists, Jews, and, at least in the Middle East, other Muslims. Also, no one seems to mind when people post pictures about the Holocaust. Indeed, no one is telling anyone not to show or not to look at these pictures, unlike pictures of Mohammed which we are not supposed to create, show, or look at. The regime of the gaze is completely inverted.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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1 Response to Holocaust Denial & Charlie Hebdo

  1. Michael says:

    Ahmed Merabet, 42, a Muslim police officer of Algerian descent, was murdered outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Clearly, Muslims are being killed in the name of the Prophet outside the Middle East as well.

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